NEW WEEK NEW FACE – VICTORINE LIESKE
Guest Blog Post by Victorine E. Lieske
How important are they? Within a few seconds of walking into an interview, you give your potential employer a first impression. The rest of the interview is spent either reaffirming a positive first impression, or trying to overcome a negative one.
Your book cover is your first impression. As potential readers scroll past it, they are making snap judgments about your book. If that first impression is positive, they might click on the book to read the blurb. If that first impression is negative, they will scroll on past without a thought.
Knowing how important a first impression is, your book cover must both catch the reader’s eye, and give them an instant first impression of your book that will hook the reader and make them want to see more. Here are some tips for those of you who want to create your own book cover:
- Genre, genre, genre. The most important thing your book cover does is show your potential customer the genre. If your cover doesn’t show this, or if it shows the wrong genre, your customers will scroll on past not even knowing what an awesome book you have. If your book is a cozy mystery, it needs to look like a cozy mystery at a two-second glance. The only way to successfully do this is to go look at other cozy mystery book covers, and adopt the same style for your book cover. I’m not saying to copy. I’m saying if most cozy mysteries have cartoon looking women on the cover, your cozy mystery cover needs to as well. If most have a plain, sans serif font, yours needs to as well. Pay close attention to generalities when doing this. What colors do many popular cozy mysteries have on their covers? What are some images you see often? Where does the title usually go? How long are the titles, usually? (And, yes, your title is part of your cover. It should be given as much weight as the cover as a whole.) How can you tell if your book shows the right genre? Sometimes it can be difficult, as the author, to know this. The best way I’ve found is to ask a group of people who aren’t your friends, and see if they can tell you what kind of book it is. You can find many authors willing to help over on Kboards.com.
- You do not want your book cover to look like you made it yourself, you want it to look professional. I’m not saying you have to pay a graphic designer to create your cover for you. I’ve seen some gorgeous covers created by authors. However, you need to get outside opinions, and help from others who do have some graphic design backgrounds. One of the most telling things about a homemade cover is the font choice. You want to pay close attention to what the traditionally published books are using as fonts, and stick to fonts that look like those. One of the best ways to see if you have what it takes to make a professional looking cover, go pick a traditionally published book and try to re-create the cover with the resources you have available to you. If you can’t do it, you may want to hire a professional who has access to Photoshop and top-notch fonts and graphics.
- Thumbnail size. Remember, most people who are browsing on the online bookstores will be viewing teeny tiny book cover images. Shrink your cover down to around 125 pixels high, and look at it. If you can’t tell what genre it is, or if it looks like a hot mess, you might want to re-think your design.
- Scream, don’t mumble. You only have a few seconds to portray your book to a potential customer. Make sure your cover isn’t mumbling. People won’t enlarge your cover and spend time contemplating the images to figure out what you mean. If your cover doesn’t scream the genre, then it’s not doing its job. Make sure the images on the cover are clear, even in thumbnail size. Make sure people don’t have to stop and really look at them to know what they are, and what genre they might represent. This is where it’s important to look similar to other books in your genre.
- Stay away from homemade art. I know your best friend’s cousin painting something just for you to use as your book cover, but unless they are fantastic, and know a lot about the book industry, you probably shouldn’t use it. If you have written a fantasy novel, and need a great cover with a dragon or a sword, go search deviantart.com and see if there’s an artist over there who you can commission for the cover art. And then, it might be a good idea to hire a graphic designer to put the text on, because sometimes being awesome at digital painting doesn’t mean you know how to put professional looking type on an image.
- Be careful with using your own photos. I know of a few authors who take their own photos for their book covers, and it works well. But I know more authors who have tried this, and it failed for them. Before you use your own photos, make sure you’re using a professional camera. (If your camera has F Stop settings, you’re probably fine.) If you don’t know what F Stop settings are, you probably should either hire it out, or use stock photos. When you go to create the paper cover, you’ll need images that have 300DPI, and are at least 6.5×9.5 inches, or the cover photos will look pixelated.
- Stay away from happy people. This might sound dumb, but have you ever really studied book covers? Unless you’re writing a non-fiction book about happy marriages, or something like that, you don’t want happy people on the cover of your book. Even sappy romances have couples on the front who are brooding and serious looking. Why? Because you want to imply conflict in the book. No one wants to read a book about happy people. There’s no story there. The cover should reflect what you’ll find on the inside. Conflicted characters who are going through hard times. No matter what the genre, your characters have obstacles to overcome. Show this in the images you choose. This also goes for sunsets and rainbows. Book covers with sunsets or pretty landscapes do not promise the reader any conflict or action.
If you have some basic skills, you can design your own book cover. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, you can download Gimp for free at http://www.gimp.org. There’s a bit of a learning curve with Gimp and Photoshop, but you can learn how to do most things if you go on YouTube and search for Gimp or Photoshop tutorials.
Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, said something important when he came to speak at my local writer’s guild conference. He said, “A good book cover makes a promise to the reader.” He’s right. I’ll even take that further and say a bad book cover makes a promise to the reader also. You’re just promising the wrong things.
You definitely don’t want to be promising your readers the wrong thing. Don’t promise that the inside of the book has sloppy writing, by making a sloppy cover. Don’t spend two years writing the book, and ten minutes slapping together the image that will forever be associated with the book. I know people say not to judge a book by its cover, but people do it everyday. Spend some time creating something that will catch the reader who is looking for your book.
After you are finished designing your cover, get some outside opinions. Post it up in a forum for authors, and see what they say. Get some help from some graphic designers who know what they are doing. It’s better to hear criticism now, than to publish your book and get no sales.
And in the end, if you try and can’t get anything to work, you can hire a graphic designer. Many of them have pre-made covers for sale, at a discount. Don’t know where to find a graphic designer? You can go to Kboards.com and click on the Yellow Pages for Authors, there’s a ton of cover designers over there.
Here’s a link: http://www.kboards.com/yp/
Victorine enjoys commercial success through her writing, thanks in part to her ability to analyze and adapt to the constantly changing trends in today’s publishing environment. She self-published her first book, Not What She Seems, in April of 2010. In March of 2011, Not What She Seems began its 6 week run on The New York Times best selling eBook list. By May 2011 she had sold over 100,000 copies. Victorine’s first romantic comedy novel, Accidentally Married, hit the USA Today Best selling books list in January 2015. Victorine is a graphic designer as well, and can be hired for book cover design.
Sidney’s matchmaking business, Blissfully Matched, is failing. No one will hire her simply because she, herself, is unattached. When her best friend convinces her to put on a fake engagement ring, business immediately picks up. Sidney’s life improves until Blake, her childhood crush, returns to Bishop Falls. It’s a good thing she’s got a fake engagement ring, because Blake broke her heart ten years ago, and she’s not about to let him do it again.
Blake can’t believe little Sidney Reed is all grown up. Too bad she’s engaged. But when Sidney’s best friend lets it slip that the engagement is fake, he makes it his goal to get Sidney to tell him the truth. They used to be best friends. All it will take is some time, and getting to know her better. Right?
Victorine E. Lieske, New Week New Face, #NWNF, First Impressions, Genre, Professionalism, Images, Accidentally Married, Mistakenly Married, Not What She Sees, Success Selling eBooks